Traub, James

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Traub, James

PERSONAL:

Married; children: a son.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY.

CAREER:

Journalist and writer. New Yorker, staff writer, 1994-97; New York Times magazine, contributing writer, 1998—.

WRITINGS:

India: The Challenge of Change, J. Messner (New York, NY), 1981, revised edition, 1985.

The Billion-Dollar Connection: The International Drug Trade, J. Messner (New York, NY), 1982.

Too Good to Be True: The Outlandish Story of Wedtech, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990.

City on a Hill: Testing the American Dream at City College, Addison-Wesley Publishing (Reading, MA), 1994.

The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the U.N. in the Era of American World Power, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Review of Books, Foreign Affairs, Atlantic Monthly, New Republic, and others.

SIDELIGHTS:

Longtime journalist James Traub has written several books about politics and international affairs, including books about India and about the international drug trade. In his book Too Good to BeTrue: The Outlandish Story of Wedtech, the author focuses on the corporate corruption and political sordidness associated with the Wedtech scandal of the 1980s. The author recounts how Wedtech, a small machine shop in the South Bronx, became a multi-million defense contractor by exploiting a government program aimed at helping minority-owned businesses and then went on to defraud not only the government but is own stockholders. Genevieve Stuttaford, writing in Publishers Weekly noted that readers should "find this a lively, colorful read." Nation contributor Richard Parker commented that Too Good to be True can be read "for sheer theatrical pleasure." Some reviewers also praised the author for his ability to focus on the most important aspects of the scandal. One such reviewer, Joe Mysak, wrote in the National Review that the author "correctly puts the emphasis on the almost shocking venality that pervaded the business and politics of the Wedtech scandal."

The City College of New York is the focus of City on a Hill: Testing the American Dream at City College. The author recounts the school's proud history of serving the poor and immigrants and then focuses on the college's slow degradation since the 1970s, resulting in graduating students who are, in the author's opinion, barely educated. "Traub is a gifted and sympathetic storyteller, and his portrait of campus life is gently drawn," wrote Barry R. Gross in Commentary. "Although he occasionally pulls punches, and although he embraces various liberal nostrums, his book leads … to devastating conclusions, showing to all but the willfully blind that no college has the power to transform individuals socially and intellectually who lack that power themselves."

Other reviewers also praised The City on the Hill. Referring to it as "fascinating and illuminating" in a review in Electronic News, Robert Sobel went on to write: "The most telling chapters deal with those remedial programs, where often ambitious students with flawed preparations struggle to make the grade, only to fall back in dismay. More than half drop out, and those who make it through are awarded those devalued diplomas." Sobel also pointed out that the book should be of interest to the general public because it "addresses the nature of American higher education today, and therein lies its true significance." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the book contains "inspiring descriptions of idealistic teachers and hardworking students."

In The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square, the author traces the history of New York's Times Square with a focus on both its entertainment history as well as real estate dealings. The author also delves into the seamy side of Times Square in the 1970s, which included strip clubs and prostitutes populating the streets. In addition, he examines reconstruction efforts marked by squabbles between the private sector and government interests. "What's gained here is the pleasure of watching exemplary reporting illuminate a fascinating crossroads of American popular art and commerce," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. GraceAnne A. DeCandido, writing in Booklist, referred to The Devil's Playground as "a fabulous read that quite nearly captures the ‘gorgeous disarray’ and ‘epic higgedly piggedly’" of Times Square. Other reviews also commended Traub for his historical account of the famous New York landmark. A Publishers Weekly contributor, for example, wrote: "Evoking the Runyonesque worlds of vaudeville, burlesque, speakeasies, gangsters and molls, the author provides lots of glamorous information." Time reviewer Richard Lacayo commented: "You might say that through history Times Square has been a cyclotron of social change, a place where sex and liquor and talent all spun around to produce some truly phosphorescent elements of the national disposition. That's the history that James Traub tells."

Traub looks at the career of former United Nations head Kofi Annan in his book The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the U.N. in the Era of American World Power. In the process, the author delves into the inner workings of the United Nations, including the infighting concerning the United Nations' mission and goals. The book "chronicles the U.N.'s passage from the apparent watershed of the early post-Cold War years to its showdown and uncomfortable peace with the administration of President George W. Bush," wrote William J. Dobson in the Washington Monthly.

Reviewers generally praised Traub's look at the United Nations and Annan. Referring to the book as "a highly readable account," a contributor to the Economist also wrote: "Mr Annan emerges from all this very much as he seems in public—a competent, self-effacing, gentle man with great charm and a genuine horror of violence." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called The Best Intentions "a heartbreaking book about a hardworking idealist's frustrated attempts to restore the stature of the cumbersome United Nations." Several reviewers also praised the author for his writing and for providing an excellent inside look at the workings of this international body. For example, Adam LeBor, writing in the Spectator, commented that the author "is a fluent writer and he skilfully guides the reader through the maze of intrigue and infighting that has always characterised the UN."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Scholar, autumn, 1995, Morris Freedman, review of City on a Hill: Testing the American Dream at City College, p. 627.

American Spectator, September, 1990, Roger Starr, review of Too Good to Be True: The Outlandish Story of Wedtech, p. 33.

Biography, spring, 2007, Glenn Wheeler, review of The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the U.N. in the Era of American World Power.

Book World, January 7, 2007, "United It Wobbles: Should We Blame the U.N. for Its Shortcomings, or the Countries That Make Up the World Body?," p. 3.

Booklist, October 15, 1994, Roland Wulbert, review of City on a Hill, p. 380; February 15, 2004, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square, p. 1024.

Books (Chicago Tribune), January 21, 2007, "The UN's Possibilities and Limitations: 2 Books Examine Past, Future of World Body," p. 4.

Business History Review, autumn, 2004, Robert W. Snyder, review of The Devil's Playground, p. 507.

Business Week, September 10, 1990, Harris Collingwood, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 18.

Choice, October, 1995, D.S. Webster, review of City on a Hill, p. 343; December, 2004, T.D. Beal, review of The Devil's Playground, p. 725.

Commentary, November, 1994, Barry R. Gross, review of City on a Hill, p. 77.

Commonweal, May 7, 2004, Julia Vitullo-Martin, "There Goes the Neighborhood," review of The Devil's Playground, p. 26.

Conde Nast Traveler, June, 2004, "Accidental Italy," p. 156.

Curriculum Review, August, 1983, review of The Billion-Dollar Connection: The International Drug Trade, p. 97.

Economist, October 28, 2006, "Behind the Scenes; the United Nations," p. 94.

Electronic News, November 21, 1994, Robert Sobel, review of City on a Hill, p. 42.

Entertainment Weekly, April 9, 2004, Gregory Kirschling, review of The Devil's Playground, p. 90.

Foreign Affairs, November-December, 2006, Stephen Schlesinger, "Annan at the End: Grading the Secretary-General," p. 147.

Georgia Review, fall-winter, 2006, "In Another Country," p. 829.

History: Review of New Books, summer, 2004, Amy Henderson, review of The Devil's Playground, p. 132.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2004, review of The Devil's Playground, p. 31; August 15, 2006, review of The Best Intentions, p. 832.

Legal Times, October 29, 1990, Tom Watson, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 58.

Library Journal, July 1, 1990, Ron Christenson, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 108; March 15, 1991, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 50; February 15, 2004, Elaine Machleder, review of The Devil's Playground, p. 142.

London Review of Books, March 22, 2007, "Prizefighters," p. 27; May 10, 2007, "Our Man," p. 9.

Los Angeles Daily Journal, July 23, 1990, Christopher Lehmann Haupt, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 7.

Nation, December 24, 1990, Richard Parker, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 819; November 7, 1994, Jon Wiener, review of City on a Hill, p. 522; April 2, 2007, "Made in USA," p. 25.

National Review, September 17, 1990, Joe Mysak, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 47.

New Jersey Law Journal, November 8, 1990, Tom Watson, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 12.

New Republic, December 19, 1994, Nathan Glazer, review of City on a Hill, p. 38.

New Yorker, October 1, 1990, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 110; December 19, 1994, review of City on a Hill, p. 115.

New York Review of Books, May 11, 1995, Andrew Hacker, review of City on a Hill, p. 37; June 24, 2004, "Babylon on the Subway," p. 18; February 15, 2007, "Is the UN Doomed?," p. 45.

New York Times, July 19, 1990, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 20.

New York Times Book Review, July 29, 1990, Andrew Feinberg, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 9; October 2, 1994, A.M. Rosenthal, review of City on a Hill, p. 7; December 4, 1994, review of City on a Hill, p. 78; March 21, 2004, "From the Floradora Girls to Toys 'R' Us," p. 8; July 10, 2005, "Up Front," p. 4; December 10, 2006, Josef Joffe, "Mr. Lonely," review of The Best Intentions, p. 22.

People, April 12, 2004, Alex Abramovich, review of The Devil's Playground, p. 68.

Policy Review, April-May, 2007, David Shorr, "Dysfunction and Potential at the U.N.," review of The Best Intentions, p. 82.

Public Interest Law Review, annual, 1991, Doug Bandow, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 192.

Publishers Weekly, May 18, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 73; September 5, 1994, review of City on a Hill, p. 102; February 16, 2004, review of The Devil's Playground, p. 165.

Reference & Research Book News, September, 1995, review of City on a Hill, p. 45.

School Library Journal, August, 1983, review of The Billion-Dollar Connection, p. 81; February, 1986, Judith L. Olson, review of India: The Challenge of Change, p. 100.

Spectator, December 9, 2006, Adam LeBor, "A Map of the Road to Hell," review of The Best Intentions.

Time, March 29, 2004, Richard Lacayo, review of The Devil's Playground, p. 65.

Tribune Books, July 29, 1990, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 6.

Wall Street Journal Western Edition, August 23, 1990, Walter Olson, review of Too Good to Be True, p. 12; October 4, 1994, William G. McGowan, review of City on a Hill, p. 16.

Washington Monthly, January, 2007, William J. Dobson, "Weight of the World: The Legacy of Kofi Annan," review of The Best Intentions, p. 46; March, 2007, Charles Peters, "Kookoo for Kofi," p. 7.

Washington Post, November 6, 1994, Alan Wolfe, review of City on a Hill, p. 10.

ONLINE

Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (June 27, 2007), brief profile of author.

Speaking Matters,http://www.speakingmatters.org/ (June 27, 2007), brief profile of author.

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Traub, James

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